Madden 15 - Xbox One Review

It looks good, but how does it stack up to the prior years?

Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star - PS3 Review

This ambitious RPG might not be for everyone, but is worth giving a chance

Lords of the Black Sun - PC Review

The potential is there, but so are plenty of missed opportunities

Styx: Master of Shadows - Xbox One Review

Challenging, beautiful and rewarding stealth for the Xbox One

Starpoint Gemini 2 - PC Review

Assume the role of a ship - it may sound strange, but is worth trying out

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gaming Thoughts... 8/13/11 - Console Wars - PSP

Having just looked at the DS, comparing it to the PSP in my next post was pretty much inevitable. Now, we only have one PSP and that's the one my wife got me for Christmas about four years ago. Everything on it is in great working order - the screen still shows up, no connections are broken, the audio is still crisp - and louder than the DS and the battery life still holds up for about four hours at a time. All things considered, it has proven durable for me.

My collection of games for the PSP has gone up and down over the years, and the catalog is very much to my liking, with a fair collection of RPG games in particular. There are other titles for it though my family likes. My wife has spent plenty of time with Puzzle Quest and 7 Wonders, my oldest has played Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, my son likes shooters such as Killzone and my youngest adores Little Big Planet. So it's a pretty versatile library. Thing is, I'm not sure it's as large or expansive as the DS one - in fact, I'm pretty sure it's not. Those games I listed are the only games anyone but my son or I actually play.

One really nice thing is that you can save your data to a memory stick. That makes it so my two oldest can take turns playing Kingdom Hearts, or my son and I can take turns playing Crisis Core, without wiping each other's data.

Depending on how you feel about the touchscreen controls, the PSP can be hit or miss. I prefer just using a gamepad most of the time, so the controls actually suit me more, but there is something to be said about the less traditional DS controls for fans of those systems.

While the operating system looks similar to the PS3 one, it's lacking in several areas. Like the DS the online presence of the PSP is very weak outside of the store. Also, you only have one 'account'. That's proven unfortunate a couple of times when my son and I accidentally overwrote one another's data.

Favorite Games for the system so far:

- Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core
- Disidia: Final Fantasy
- God of War: Chains of Olympus


Pros:

- Video and audio are great for a handheld
- Portable, durable gaming
- Saves data to the memory stick

Cons:

- Library is not as good as the DS one
- Controls are very traditional - a bummer for some who prefer the DS style
- Weak online presence

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gaming Thoughts... 8/10/11 - Console Wars - DS

We have a few systems. Other than PC's, the DS is actually our 2nd most-owned system. I know it's not really a console, but considering the prices of handheld systems now, and the expansive libraries they have, I consider them to be in that category. With the 3DS and Vita ringing in at $250 and the Wii and Xbox 360 cheaper, I think it's fair.

Now unfortunately, I do not have a 3DS. Technically, I don't have any DS systems, because my kids each have one (two lites and DSi). Still, I do get the play them and I definitely have some thoughts on these.

First, I love the library of games. Between the franchise sweethearts like Zelda, Mario and more to the downloadable content the DSi and later have access to, and the myriad of old-school RPGs that I absolutely love to play - there's a good collection here. The controls are unique and intuitive. I will be honest, my personal preference is a controller to the touchscreen overall, but in some games it does work really, really well.

The fact that your gaming is on the go is of course the primary selling point. I also have to give these things pretty decent credit for durability. Decent, not great. My youngest has had the same problem on her unit (bad cartridge port) twice, and my son once dropped his on the ground, Nerf armor and all, and it cracked the screen even though it was closed and landed on its side. Then again, those units have been dropped tons of times and still hold up, and my oldest has had hers since the beginning and it's in great working shape.

There are some downsides though as well. The screens are a bit small and hard to see - especially in a brightly lit room. The very nature of using an item to touch and drag across the screen scratches and scuffs it over time. The sound and video are a bit weak, even compared to another handheld like the PSP.

It's really not the system of choice either, when the kids have other options. My son will play a full console or my PC before playing his DS. My youngest will also. My wife and I fall into that category as well. It's not unanimous however - my oldest actually prefers her DS to any of the consoles and it is runner up only to her PC - and she uses it for Facebook and writing - not gaming.

There's really not much of an online presence for playing online either for their units. In fact the DS Lites can't even get online here because of our router encryption type, though my son's DSi can.

One last problem is the way the data saves to the games instead of the unity memory. This makes it impossible for the kids to share a game like Pokemon Diamond, because they are only able to have one save file, no matter whose DS it is being played on. That's caused several problems in the past unfortunately when someone bought a game and realized there weren't enough save slots to go around.

Favorite Games for the System so far:

- Final Fantasy Tactcis A@ - Grimoir of the Rift
- Final Fantasy XII - Revnant Wings
- Zelda Phantom Hourglass



Pros:

- Portable
- Great selection of games
- Unique interface

Cons:

- Weak audo/video
- Data saves to games, not memory
- Minimal online presence

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gaming Thoughts... 8/7/11 - Console Wars - PC

What is the top gaming system in our household? This is very subjective obviously, but after quite a bit of thought - I have an answer.

This is just a bit of an opinion - but I've had a few people ask me: what's your favorite system?

That's a good question, especially since we have 3 DS's (2 lites and a DSi), a PSP, Wii, 360 and PS3. I have a PC as well that I use as a gaming machine. Now, for overall utility, my PC wins hands-down, because it plays games, movies, browses - the whole 9 yards. It's not my favorite gaming device though. I'll go some pros and cons to each -and mind you this is only my opinion - but here it is. To keep the posts from getting too obnoxiously large, I'm going to break this down into a series of posts every couple of days, one post per system, until I'm done.

PC: It only does everything. Sure, I'm stealing Sony's PS3 tagline here, but in all honestly it is true. As a gaming machine though, it has some setbacks. I play on a smaller screen than my 3 primary consoles, and it is definitely not the best system for multiplayer locally. There's a very big disconnect on this machine - it's "my" system, and sometimes the kids use it, but it's definitely not a social gaming system for my family the way the Wii is, for example.

It can be as powerful as I like, but there's a significant cost factor involved as well, and while it's good, it doesn't always produce the best framerate and sound (since I'm also not set up for surround on this machine). Another bit of a strike is that nothing has resale value. Now, the flip side to that is I get games for it more cheaply than any other system as well (thank you Steam!).

I'm relatively new to PC gaming, at least this 'generation'. I played plenty of games on an older machine about 10 years ago - Magic: The Gathering, Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft and plenty more - but I went years without playing games on weak PC's (with the very notable exception of World of Warcraft) until my wife bought me this new one last Christmas, and I have found a ton of games since.

Favorite Games for the system so far:

- King's Bounty: Legend
- Defense Grid: Awakenings
- Star Craft 2


Pros:

- It does everything - I use it for online games, free games, web browsing is best supported here
- MMO's - games like World of Warcraft just don't work as well on consoles it seems
- Cheap games - there's a back catalog of games that is huge. Newer games are cheaper, and older games are much, much cheaper than most of what you find on consoles

Cons:

- Expensive. Performance costs more than on consoles
- Not always ideal for local multiplayer
- can't trade/sell the games